Molson Coors, LLC v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC

Analysis Group was retained on behalf of Anheuser-Busch, the defendant in a false advertising lawsuit brought by Molson Coors under the Lanham Act. The plaintiff claimed that Anheuser-Busch’s advertising campaign, which aired around and during Super Bowl LIII, misled consumers by mocking Molson Coors products Miller Lite and Coors Light for containing corn syrup while asserting that Bud Light did not. Molson Coors claimed that the additive was only used in the manufacturing process and was not present in the final product, despite corn syrup’s appearance in the company’s ingredient lists for the products. Molson Coors sought injunctive relief, as well as damages.

An Analysis Group team led by Managing Principals Michael Holland, Rebecca Kirk Fair, and Samuel Weglein; Principal Rene Befurt; and Vice Presidents Michael Schreck, Elizabeth Milsark, and Anne Catherine Faye supported three academic affiliates, who testified at deposition and provided expert reports. Professor Kevin Lane Keller evaluated the factors that influence brand value and consumer choice, while Professor Judith Chevalier provided economic analyses of the alcoholic beverage industry and rebutted one of the plaintiff’s experts. In addition, Professor John Hauser identified defects associated with one of the plaintiff’s experts’ consumer surveys, which purported to show that some of the consumers who viewed the ad misunderstood the context.

Although the district court initially granted the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed that decision. The appeals court held that, despite consumer perceptions purportedly derived from the survey evidence, Anheuser-Busch’s ads could not be either false or misleading as a matter of law when corn syrup had been listed as an ingredient on the plaintiff’s website at that time. A subsequent order from the district court then terminated the matter, granting Anheuser-Busch’s motion for summary judgment.